Michael Tomasky is right. I don’t know what it is about Bernie, but he doesn’t bother to sit down and actually hash out solutions — which is why I prefer Clinton:
What Sanders does is that he stakes out moral positions that are laudable abstract goals. But I’ve been shocked sometimes by how little thought he seems to have given to how to get to these goals. Take the Medicare-for-all thing. Many months ago he started talking about Medicare-for-all. At one point reporters started asking, so, where’s the plan? Yeah, yeah; it’ll come, it’ll come. So some weeks passed. And then he released his plan.
Well, it didn’t get very good reviews. Ezra Klein, Vox: “It is, to be generous, a gesture toward a future plan.” James Surowiecki, The New Yorker: “… the accompanying document devoted to explaining how the plan would work, and what it would mean for patients and providers, consists of just a couple of pages.”
I read the thing when he released it. I thought it was reasonably detailed on the how-he’d-pay-for-it part. But on the question of how health care would be delivered—which is to say, on the whole point of the thing!—it was a joke. And I thought: Now here’s this guy. He’s been in Congress for a quarter-century. Every day during all those years, he’s supported Medicare-for-all. In all that time, couldn’t he have given some thought to some of the specific and complicated questions of health-care delivery? And maybe he did. But there’s no evidence in this plan that he did. That was a tell.
Now, to Clinton. What she offers are solutions. She started talking about Flint long before Sanders did, and instead of focusing on Snyder, she put forward solutions and proposals. What she isn’t good at is moral thunder. It’s not her nature, never has been. At Wellesley, she supported permitting antiwar activities on campus and rescinding the skirt rule; but her involvement was less about marching than about sitting down with administrators to work out the details. Then she became a cautious centrist, which probably suited her temperamentally since nobody expects a cautious centrist to do moral thunder. But now she’s trying to be a populist, and she doesn’t have the gene.
I think she just ought to own it. Sunday night she should have said, “Yeah, whatever, Snyder should go. And you know what? The day he moves out of the governor’s mansion, it’s not like the water of Flint is going to magically get better.” And so on in that vein. Because to get into a game who can out-thunder whom is get into a game she can’t win. In this respect, the media abet Sanders, because news tends to be defined as that one grabby new thing. So on NPR Monday morning—yes, even “smart” NPR—the reports on the debate led with the fact that Clinton joined Sanders’s call for Snyder’s head, which is “news.” I get it, but it is hardly the most meaningful thing that happened and is irrelevant to the health of the people of Flint.
The perfect candidate would be a cross between the two. But human beings aren’t usually good at two opposing things. I can see why people are drawn to the moral-thunder candidate, but they in turn ought to be able to see why some other people—people who are shaping up to be the majority, as it happens—are drawn to the let’s-figure-this-out candidate. It’s less about ideology and more about temperament than most people would prefer to admit. And one thing’s for sure: Outrage certainly isn’t morally superior to rolling up one’s sleeves. If anything, the opposite is true.